Australia captain Michael Clarke could be back in action as early as next week after he resumed batting practice ahead of the start of the Ashes.
When the 32-year-old batsman was ruled out of the one-day series in India with the latest recurrence of his back problem, there was considerable doubt as to whether he would be fit to face England come the first Test on November 21.
Now it seems he could play in New South Wales' first match of the Sheffield Shield season, which begins on October 30, although the second match against Victoria the following week is seen as a more realistic target.
Australia physio Alex Kountouris said: "Michael is progressing well and recently recommenced batting in the nets.
"At this stage we are aiming to have him fit to play the second round of the Bupa Sheffield Shield, but we have not ruled out the possibility of him playing the first round of the Shield season if he makes better than expected progress.
"We'll continue to monitor him closely."
Clarke has been suffering with back problems for some time and they limited his participation in warm-up and limited-overs matches while on tour in England this summer.